Another year has passed us by and once again I spent a lot of that year watching films, a great many of them in the theater. Sadly I didn’t get to see everything I wanted, stuff like “Drive”, “Moneyball”, “Warhorse” and “The Artist” will have to wait until early 2012 or whenever they are released on video. However, out of what I did see this year, there were a slew of films that kept me thinking about them well after I saw them, the below are the best of those films.
The ghost story has been done to death, which is probably why I didn’t give Insidious a chance at first. However, this simple tale of parents attempting to save their child from the clutches of evil spirits is a terrifying thrill ride. Directed by James Wan and written by Leigh Whannel, the team behind the original Saw, the film does something many horror films today don’t do, it provides actual scares.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
I won’t deny that I was highly disappointing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, however Part 2 makes up for it in every conceivable way. If you are a Potter fan, this is the culmination of a journey that started a decade ago and director David Yates handles it with grace and dignity.
8. Our Idiot Brother
Paul Rudd plays Ned, the titular character whom is a free spirit that lives life to the fullest. But the film isn’t really about Ned but rather his sisters, who are so wrapped up in the minutia of their lives that they have forgotten how to actually live them. Ned, through a series of awkward, yet hysterical instances, comes to show them they have been doing it wrong. There is just something about Rudd that is charming and endearing and Our Idiot Brother captures it majestically.
7. Fast Five
The Fast and Furious movies have always been one of my guilty pleasures but with Fast Five, the pleasure is no longer guilty. Fast Five is hands down the best action movie of the year. While the Fast crew already operated like a well-oiled machine under the guidance of director Justin Lin, it is the addition of The Rock that really pushes this film (and series) into overdrive. The Rock looks reinvigorated and once again able to claim the action hero crown and his energy was seemingly infectious as Vin Diesel is on fire in this movie.
6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
While I’ve yet to read the book, I loved the original Swedish film. I felt it was an engaging mystery with a great sense of pacing, as well as some excellent acting performances. Unsurprisingly, at least to David Fincher fans, this English language version actually improves on the original in nearly every way. Lisbeth (played by Rooney Mara) is a deeper character here and that makes a lot of the changes carry more weight. The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because I had seen the original and because of that a lot of the tension of the investigation just wasn’t there for me.
5. Source Code
Every once in a while a film comes along and surprises you with how smart it is. Source Code is one of those films. Director Duncan Jones delivers a tight, tense, sci-fi thrill ride and most surprisingly it is done almost entirely by repeating the same eight minutes over and over again. Source Code is a film that makes you think, presenting both a solid mystery as well as some interesting ethical questions.
4. I Saw the Devil
I love a good revenge thriller and there were none better this year than the Korean language film, I Saw the Devil. The film is excessively violent and gory and at nearly every turn it threatens to fall victim to becoming just another torture porn film, but somehow director Jee-woon Kim is able to walk the tightrope instead delivering an artistic tour-de-force exploring the destruction of a man’s sanity in his pursuit for revenge.
At its core, Hugo is a whimsical story about an orphan who befriends a young girl and has a wondrous adventure but hidden amongst the simple adventure is Martin Scorsese’s love letter to his craft. It is a film about remembering and celebrating the past, while at the same time pushing forward to new adventures. Simply put it is a film that anyone who has a love for the medium should see.
2. Super 8
If Hugo is Martin Scorsese’s love letter to film making, Super 8 is J.J. Abrams love letter to Stephen Spielberg. There is such a classic feel to everything in Super 8 that at times it is hard to imagine that it did not come out 25 years ago. But what the film does the best though is capture the magic of 80s era Spielberg and in doing so Super 8 effectively made me feel like a kid again, entranced by the magic of the silver screen.
1. The Muppets
Call me a fool all you want but nothing this year put a smile on my face like The Muppets did. It is without a doubt the funniest, most feel good movie of the year. It gets everything right about The Muppets and in so doing, delivers a perfect viewing experience that can bring a smile to even the most hardened of hearts.
Those are mine, what are some of yours?